Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dire Warning From China's First Climate Change Report



Agence France Presse, posted on Commondreams




Temperatures in China will rise significantly in coming decades and water shortages will worsen, state media has reported, citing the government's first national assessment of global climate change.



"Greenhouse gases released due to human activity are leading to ever more serious problems in terms of climate change," the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement.



"Global climate change has an impact on the nation's ability to develop further," said the ministry, one of 12 government departments that prepared the report.



In just over a decade, global warming will start to be felt in the world's most populous country, and it will get warmer yet over the next two or three generations.



Compared with 2000, the average temperatures will increase by between 1.3 and 2.1 degrees Celsius by 2020, the China News Service reported, citing the assessment.



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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

By 2040, Greenhouse Gases Could Lead to an Open Arctic Sea in Summers




By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times




New studies project that the Arctic Ocean could be mostly open water in summer by 2040 — several decades earlier than previously expected — partly as a result of global warming caused by emissions of greenhouse gases.



The projections come from computer simulations of climate and ice and from direct measurements showing that the amount of ice coverage has been declining for 30 years.



The latest modeling study, being published on Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was led by Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.



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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Cost of an Overheated Planet




Steve Lohr, NY Times



The iconic culprit in global warming is the coal-fired power plant. It burns the dirtiest, most carbon-laden of fuels, and its smokestacks belch millions of tons of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.





James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy and chairman of a leading utility trade group, at an electrical substation in Charlotte, N.C.
So it is something of a surprise that James E. Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, a coal-burning utility in the Midwest and the Southeast, has emerged as an unexpected advocate of federal regulation that would for the first time impose a cost for emitting carbon dioxide. But he has his reasons.



“Climate change is real, and we clearly believe we are on a route to mandatory controls on carbon dioxide,” Mr. Rogers said. “And we need to start now because the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive this is going to be.”



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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Moonbase Planned While Earth is in Peril





According to NBC news today, NASA is in the planning stages of building a moonbase. The moonbase is a step towards a mission to Mars. Though it appears that a base to the moon may be possible, the news broadcast indicated that there is no master plan or funding for a future Mars mission.



I for one have never been fond of the NASA program. I have also never bought the marketing ploy that the billions spent on space exploration have brought us wonderful inventions that have greatly improved our lives. I would like to know which of the religions practiced in this country espouse the worship in material goods over the helping of the poor and disadvantaged? I seek knowledge, understanding and enlightenment concerning the ethics that drive us to spend vast public funds on "space exploration" at the expense of our most vulnerable. Is this a shining example of a representative democracy?



James E Hansen, the eminent NASA scientist has clearly stated that if we do not DRASTICALLY reduce our carbon emissions in the next 10 years, there will be cycle in place in which nothing we do will matter. We have a very small window to correct this problem since more than a year has passed since his statement. We need an Apollo mission to save earth and we need it now. It is imperative that those scientists at NASA redirect their sights towards where their feet are and begin to tackle the enormous task of developing an infrastructure that has 0 carbon emissions. Otherwise, the outrageous waste of time and resources on space flight resembles nothing more than the symphony playing on the deck of the Titanic.



Mike O'Brien

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Taming King Coal

NY Times



China will surpass the United States as the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide by 2009, a decade ahead of previous predictions. A big reason is the explosion in the number of automobiles, but the main reason is China's ravenous appetite for coal, the dirtiest of all the fuels used to produce electricity. Already, China uses more coal than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined. Every week to 10 days, another coal- fired power plant opens somewhere in China.



What's frightening about this for those worried about the long-term consequences of warming is that nearly all of these plants are being built along traditional lines, burning pulverized coal to make electricity. And what's sad about it is that there's a much cleaner coal-burning technology available. Known as IGCC - for integrated gasification combined cycle - this process coverts coal into a gas before it is burned.



These plants produce fewer of the pollutants that cause smog and acid rain than conventional power plants do. More important, from a global warming perspective, they also have the potential to capture and sequester greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide before they enter the atmosphere.



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Crude Impact

CRUDE IMPACT is a powerful and timely story that explores the interconnection between human domination of the planet and the discovery and use of oil.



This new documentary film exposes our deep-rooted dependency on the availability of fossil fuel energy and examines the future implications of peak oil - the point in time when the amount of petroleum worldwide begins a steady, inexorable decline.




Journeying from the west African delta to the heart of the Amazon rainforest, from Washington to Shanghai, from early man to the unknown future, CRUDE IMPACT chronicles the collision of our insatiable appetite for oil with the rights and livelihoods of indigenous cultures, other species and the planet itself. A thought-provoking story of discovery, sorrow, outrage, humor and ultimately, hope.










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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Energy Use Can Be Cut by Efficiency, Survey Says



Steve Lohr, NY Times



The growth rate of worldwide energy consumption could be cut by more than half over the next 15 years through more aggressive energy-efficiency efforts by households and industry, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, which is scheduled to be released today.



The energy savings, the report said, can be achieved with current technology and would save money for consumers and companies. The McKinsey report offers a long list of suggested steps, including the adoption of compact fluorescent light bulbs, improved insulation on new buildings, reduced standby power requirements, an accelerated push for appliance-efficiency standards and the use of solar water heaters.



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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Carbon Emissions Show Sharp Rise



by Richard Black BBC



The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis.



The trend towards increased energy efficiency is levelling off.



The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year.



It says the acceleration comes mainly from a rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains.



The global research network released its latest analysis at a scientific meeting in Australia.



Dr Mike Rapauch of the Australian government's research organisation CSIRO, who co-chairs the Global Carbon Project, told delegates that 7.9 billion tonnes (gigatonnes, Gt) of carbon passed into the atmosphere last year. In 2000, the figure was 6.8Gt.



"From 2000 to 2005, the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions was more than 2.5% per year, whereas in the 1990s it was less than 1% per year," he said.



The finding parallels figures released earlier this month by the World Meteorological Organization showing that the rise in atmospheric concentrations of CO2 had accelerated in the last few years.



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Saturday, November 25, 2006

What Did You Buy?

Well, Black Friday has come and gone. Buy Nothing Day seems to take on more of an urgency for me this year. Oh it's not that I didn't feel the crush of impending doom last year, I did. This year we have seemed to turn a corner of sorts in regards to public awareness (note I did not say "acceptance") of global warming. There appears to be varying degrees of understanding of just what is going on here with the public and the numbers of deniers seem to be going the way of many of our animal species. ExxonMobil continues to use it's mighty power in the media to keep those oil I.V's firmly attached. It is going to be a hard realization for those of us who have become dependent upon big media for their information to understand that the enemy is us. Uncle Al's movie Inconvenient Truth did seem to help. I was somewhat comforted to see that upon a visit to my local video store none of the dozen or so DVD's of Inconvenient Truth were available, all rented. Something IS going on around here.


This year it appears to be generally accepted on many college campuses that global warming is real and that the future could be very nasty. Students seeking higher education are coming out with increasingly higher and higher debt and are willing to go to the bank to make up the difference in unprecedented numbers. They are investing in their future believing that it will pay off. Perhaps they will get it enough to help change our world for the better. If you count the number of "Sustainability Directors" on campus you will find at least some college officials understand that for their institutions to continue business as usual will kill us all.



I did honor "Buy Nothing Day" while at the same time trying hard to keep my relationships positive with those in my life who are still caught up in the "sale frenzy" that stores try to elicit from vulnerable shoppers. My approach to the futility of this yearly ritual is to have the long view. Wanting us all to wake up and try to figure our way out of this mess, is, of course, where I go when I think about what world my kids and grandkids will inherit. But wanting it now, without the necessary re-evaluation of all the things that make communities’ sustainable what we need?



For those of us who invest a good chunk of time trying to understand the complex issues of creating long-term and sustainable wealth in our community we can be a challenge to live with. Keeping those relationships strong and intact is what helps keep our community more sustainable. Yet there are the many and varied actions that we take each day that demand to be re-examined if we want to create a future worth living for our children. For me, taking the longer view with family about destructive consumerist habits is much like raising teenagers. You have to carefully pick your battles. Deciding ahead of time, what the issues are that you will put your energy into in terms of educating, cajoling, and humoring can be helpful. It is equally helpful to know what you can let go of, knowing that over time the obvious will become more of a national imperative.



I say this all with considerable trepidation. Recent news about global warming provides us with two high-profile disaster warnings that will take your breath away. Sir Nicholas Stern has predicted that climate change will cause the most massive market failure in history. As a result of a major study, the journal Science published information that it is likely there will be a near-total collapse of global fisheries within the next 40 years. Eminent NASA scientist Dr. James E. Hansen has publicly stated that we have about 10 years left to reduce our carbon releases, after that period of time, nothing we do will be likely to help.



All of this gloom and doom can in fact instill as sense of futility. We have all heard or thought, "What I do won't really matter." This pervasive myth perhaps is the greatest obstacle for most in our community who remain concerned with what we are doing to the earth. The reality is that this thinking is the exact opposite of what we need to do. One thing we can do is begin to change how we think about the materials we bring into our homes. If we begin to think about the true cost of an item besides it's monetary pricetag, then we are well on our way to making a real difference. The true cost of an item has to include the fossil fuels used to create it including the power used by the machinery, the plastics taken from petroleum, fuels used to transport by rail, truck or air, the energy required to use to product and lastly disposal. Reducing the heating of our homes, becoming wiser about our personal transportation, and reducing our electric consumption are within our means and is a start we can all do now. Supporting locally produced food and products will also strengthen our economy, support local families, and lessen our impact on the natural world. So to become good ancestors means that we take action now. When our grandchildren sit down with us someday and ask, " did you know about global warming? Did you do anything to stop it? " You will be able to tell them the truth.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pace of Global Warming Causes Alarm




'Very different and frightening world' coming faster than expected, scientists warn


by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press, posted on Commondreams




"...Just five years ago biologists, though not complacent, believed the harmful biological effects of global warming were much farther down the road, said Douglas Futuyma, professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. "



"I feel as though we are staring crisis in the face," Futuyma said. "It's not just down the road somewhere. It is just hurtling toward us. Anyone who is 10 years old right now is going to be facing a very different and frightening world by the time that they are 50 or 60."



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Saturday, November 18, 2006

USA: Wanted for Crimes Against the Planet




Center for American Progress. Posted November 16, 2006. Posted on Alternet



World temperatures are rising to levels not seen in at least 12,000 years. Greenland's ice mass is melting at "what what NASA calls a 'dramatic' rate of 41 cubic miles per year." And unless climate change is reined in, "extreme drought could eventually affect one-third of the planet." More than 5,000 activists, scientists, and diplomats understand these facts and have gathered in Nairobi, Kenya for the annual two-week U.N. Climate Change Conference, which is now in its final three days. As U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, "The stakes are high. ... Yet too often climate change is seen as an environmental problem when it should be part of the broader development and economic agenda." The Bush administration and the 109th Congress haven't understood these stakes. Hopefully, the 110th Congress will. Incoming Senate Environment and Public Works chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) recently said, "Time is running out, and we need to move forward on this." The Bush administration's chief climate negotiator, however, promised conference participants that the White House would continue to do as little as possible.


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City Approves ‘Carbon Tax’ in Effort to Reduce Gas Emissions

Katie Kelly, NY Times




BOULDER, Colo., Nov. 14 — Voters in this liberal college town have approved what environmentalists say may be the nation’s first “carbon tax,” intended to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases.



The tax, to take effect on April 1, will be based on the number of kilowatt-hours used. Officials say it will add $16 a year to an average homeowner’s electricity bill and $46 for businesses.



City officials said the revenue from the tax — an estimated $6.7 million by 2012, when the goal is to have reduced carbon emissions by 350,000 metric tons — would be collected by the main gas and electric utility, Xcel Energy, and funneled through the city’s Office of Environmental Affairs .



The tax is to pay for the “climate action plan,” efforts to “increase energy efficiency in homes and buildings, switch to renewable energy and reduce vehicle miles traveled,” the city’s environmental affairs manager, Jonathan Koehn, said.



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Friday, November 03, 2006

Study Sees ‘Global Collapse’ of Fish Species







by CORNELIA DEAN, NY Times



If fishing around the world continues at its present pace, more and more species will vanish, marine ecosystems will unravel and there will be “global collapse” of all species currently fished, possibly as soon as midcentury, fisheries experts and ecologists are predicting.



The scientists, who report their findings today in the journal Science, say it is not too late to turn the situation around. As long as marine ecosystems are still biologically diverse, they can recover quickly once overfishing and other threats are reduced, the researchers say. But improvements must come quickly, said Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, who led the work. Otherwise, he said, “we are seeing the bottom of the barrel.”



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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dawn of the "Solar Salon" in US Living Rooms






by Timothy Gardner,Reuters posted on Commondreams



Solar power is likely to get more attention as governments look at ways to cut emissions of gases that cause global warming. Ministers from almost 190 governments meet in Nairobi from November 6 to November 17 for annual U.N. talks about ways to speed up the fight against global warming.Solar power is likely to get more attention as governments look at ways to cut emissions of gases that cause global warming. Ministers from almost 190 governments meet in Nairobi from November 6 to November 17 for annual U.N. talks about ways to speed up the fight against global warming.



Environmentalists and many financial analysts envision a not-too-distant future when the 35 cent per kilowatt hour cost of power from solar panels will halve to equal the average cost of power from fossil fuels.



"Whether it's 2010, 2012, or 2015, I think everyone can see the writing on the wall," said Jesse Pichel, solar industry analyst with investment bank Piper Jaffray in New York. When costs become equal, "solar power demand is infinite," he said.



David Smith, an analyst at Citigroup in New York wrote in a research report in October that solar power has "crossed the tipping point and is on the cusp of a significant expansion between now and 2010."





Environmentalists and many financial analysts envision a not-too-distant future when the 35 cent per kilowatt hour cost of power from solar panels will halve to equal the average cost of power from fossil fuels.



"Whether it's 2010, 2012, or 2015, I think everyone can see the writing on the wall," said Jesse Pichel, solar industry analyst with investment bank Piper Jaffray in New York. When costs become equal, "solar power demand is infinite," he said.



David Smith, an analyst at Citigroup in New York wrote in a research report in October that solar power has "crossed the tipping point and is on the cusp of a significant expansion between now and 2010."



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Monday, October 30, 2006

Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming





By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times.



“Houston,” Charles F. Kutscher, chairman of the Solar 2006 conference, concluded in a twist on the line from Apollo 13, “we have a solution.”



Hold the applause. For all the enthusiasm about alternatives to coal and oil, the challenge of limiting emissions of carbon dioxide, which traps heat, will be immense in a world likely to add 2.5 billion people by midcentury, a host of other experts say. Moreover, most of those people will live in countries like China and India, which are just beginning to enjoy an electrified, air-conditioned mobile society.



The challenge is all the more daunting because research into energy technologies by both government and industry has not been rising, but rather falling.



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Sunday, October 29, 2006

China: Largest Urban Migration In History

Recently I came upon a startling fact. China is in the midst of a vast urban migration. It seems that Chinese peasants are flocking to industrialized areas in the search for higher income and opportunity. As a result, China now has over 200 cities with 3 million inhabitants or more. Cities have sprung up out of nowhere as companies relocate to China to capitalize on the cheap labor.



China is also in a huge growth spurt and its energy useage is soaring as a result. From reports, there seems to be little in the way of pollution control. This disturbing trend is occurring as people in the US are starting to come out their deep sleep about global warming. The implications appear grave.



One question to think about is this: If we in the United States are able to control our carbon release, what about developing countries such as China? Clearly the US with 5% of the world's population using 25% of its energy any reduction we make will be extremely helpful in preserving the planet's future. What about China? China continues to depend a great deal on coal and reports indicate that they continue to build vast numbers of new ones. Will are actions in curbing our carbon releases be dwarfed by China's march into modernization?



I am also concerned about what might happen to the rural people's attachment to nature as they leave their close relationship with the earth behind in search of the good life and consumption that urban living might promise them. Removing themselves, as many Americans have done, from a bond with the natural world will not support them in to coming to terms with the choices that must be made if we are to survive industrialization. In the terms of human history, industrialization has been an experiment. The word is not in yet on whether or not it has succeeded. Clearly, it has ravaged our world in gargantuan ways. A burning question that will be addressed whether we like it or not is: will our addiction to money and power prevent us from taking the necessary steps in preserving our future?

Ticonderoga Burn

I guess the test burn is likely to happen at the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga New York. The state environment board authorized a two week test burn of tires which could provide about 10% of the energy needed by the plant. As the plant is located just across Lake Champlain, the prevailing winds will carry the emissions to Vermont locations. Bad enough, International Paper has declined to outfit the plan with state-of-the-art pollution control technology (electorstatic precipitatior) that would filter out toxic particulate matter. It is my understanding that Vermont has offered to help pay for this equipment, however, there ain't no takers at International Paper.



According to the NY state Waste Tire website, there are about 24.7 million waste tires in landfills throughout the state and that these comprise about 85% of all discarded tires in the state. What is not clear, is just how many tires are discarded in the empire state on a yearly basis, where will they go, and what are the plans to get rid of them? It might appear that perhaps that State of New York has a strong and powerful vested interest in the burning at Ticonderoga.



This additional insult to breathing Vermonters is nothing new. In previous articles, Vermont has been identified as the "tailpipe" for the industrial midwest carrying toxic chemicals and particulate to our bucolic state. And it goes way back........ If you research the nuclear testing in the early decades of the nuclear bombs, they have wind patterns showing the path of the fallout. The path is concentrated just before hitting the western part of Vermont as it flows "through the tailpipe" across Vermont.



So I guess we can't think that coming to a rural state of Vermont, with "clean air", no billboards, loads of farmland, and plenty of open land can remove us from contamination. Truth be told, we do have better outcomes in regards to cancer rates that our city cousins, however, the industrial creep cannot be avoided.



So, should you think that this piece is a bit of overeaction, how would you then describe the reaction of Vermont Department of Health? They will be tracking healthy statistics from Rutland,Addison and Burlington Counties, prior to the burn,during the burn and after the burn to monitor any health problems. There is serious concern that this release could erode the quality of Vermont air and water.



I just have to wonder what the long term effects will be if this burning continues. Unfortunately, history has shown too often, that when a business makes decisions about its bottom line versus the health of the community, that powerful feduciary responsibility to its stockholders wins out.



MOB

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Law to Cut Emissions? Deal With It




by Jane L Levere, NY Times



In August, Peter A. Darbee, chairman, chief executive and president of PG&E, owner of Pacific Gas and Electric, broke rank with his peers by supporting a measure in California that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are widely blamed for global warming. Mr. Darbee discussed his decision and other initiatives in an interview on a recent visit to New York.



"Rather than sitting there and denying that global warming is a problem and climate change is a problem, my reaction was to accept it and to go with the flow to understand the trend, and then say, how can I position PG&E to deal with that challenge, and then how can I turn a challenge into an opportunity."

Click to Read

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Global Warming Study Predicts Wild Ride




By Seth Borenstein, Associated Press, posted on Commondreams




In a preview of a major international multiyear report on climate change that comes out next year, a study out of the National Center for Atmospheric Research details what nine of the world's top computer models predict for the lurching of climate at its most extreme.




"It's going to be a wild ride, especially for specific regions," said study lead author Claudia Tebaldi, a scientist at the federally funded academic research center.





...."The changes are very significant there," Tebaldi said. "It's enough to say we're in for a bad future."




Click to Read

Friday, October 13, 2006

Climate Change Inaction Will Cost Trillions: Study





by Jeremy Lovell, Reuters



Failing to fight global warming now will cost trillions of dollars by the end of the century even without counting biodiversity loss or unpredictable events like the Gulf Stream shutting down, a study said on Friday.




But acting now will avoid some of the massive damage and cost relatively little, said the study commissioned by Friends of the Earth from the Global Development and Environment Institute of Tufts University in the United States.


Click to Read

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The 'Poison Plastic' Retailers Won't Talk About




By Lois Gibbs, AlterNet



PVC plastic (commonly used in toys, shower curtains, bags, shoes and more) has been linked to cancer and birth defects -- so why won't big-box stores like Target stop selling it?


Click To Read

Saturday, September 23, 2006

God Is Green





By MATTHEW SCULLY, NY Times



More out of habit than considered judgment, Wilson believes, many religious people and especially conservative Christians tend to brush off environmental causes as liberal alarmism, vaguely subversive, and in any case no concern of theirs. Wilson’s book is a polite but firm challenge to this mind-set, seeking to ally religion and science — “the two most powerful forces in the world today” — in an ethic of “honorable” self-restraint toward the natural world.



Click To Read Article

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Two billion homes could be free from escalating electricity costs


Greenpeace


Dresden, Germany — Two billion households worldwide could realistically be powered by solar energy by 2025, according to a joint report launched today by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace (1). The report concludes that thanks to advances in technology, increasing competition and investment in production facilities, solar power has now become a serious contender in the electricity market; able to provide low-cost, clean, CO2 emission free energy.



Click to Read Article

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Global warming march


A BAGPIPER HERALDS the end of the 50-mile walk across Addison and Chittenden counties to raise awareness of global warming. The five-day event attracted marchers of all ages.
Independent photo/Angelo Lynn




By ANGELO LYNN AND HARRIETTE BRAINARD, The Addison Independent



“What we’ve just done (getting the candidates to sign the pledge) is an achievement beyond our wildest hopes when we first started out five weeks ago,” environmental author and Ripton resident Bill McKibben told the crowd of supporters at Monday’s rally. In response, the crowd — as it had done several times during speeches by candidates and rally-organizers — roared with its enthusiastic approval.



The pledge, McKibben explained in an on-line daily journal, raised the bar in Vermont politics “to the point where anyone wishing to be taken seriously needs to champion an 85 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, the rapid phase-in of 40-mile-per-gallon cars, and a national plan to get 20 percent of our power from renewables by 2020.



“As crucial,” he continued, “we demonstrated that at least for Vermont voters this was not a second- or third-tier issue — it was as crucial to getting elected as your position on jobs or the economy or all the things the political pros always call the real issues.”



THE PLEDGE:

"Scientists say we must begin to significantly reduce our emissions within the next 10 years if we are to avoid the most serious impacts of global warming. That is why I support the goal set by Senator Jeffords in his global warming bill -- an 80 percent reduction in global warming pollution by mid-century. To achieve that goal we need to start an energy revolution. I will work to promote global warming solutions, such as a national renewable energy standard of 20 percent by 2020 and an increase in mileage standards to 40 miles per gallon."



Click to Read Article

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Marchers Hoping To Heat Up Action on Global Warming




by Kevin O'Connor, Rutland Herald



RIPTON — Bill McKibben can't recall more than 200 Americans ever launching a five-day walk calling for government action on global warming. And so he deemed what happened in his Vermont town Thursday to be historic.



"It's perhaps the largest single demonstration yet in this country against global warming," the Middlebury College environmental scholar said. "It's time to start summoning the political will to do something."



McKibben, whose book "The End of Nature" was the first about climate change written for a general audience, joined walkers from throughout Vermont and as far away as California to kick off a symbolic march seeking national movement on the planet's hottest environmental issue.



Participants assembled at the Robert Frost trail on Route 125 in Ripton to start a 49-mile walk north to Burlington, where a Labor Day rally will ask statewide political candidates to support the goals of a Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act just introduced by U.S. Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt.



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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bill McKibben: A Deeper Shade of Green


Bill McKibben: A Deeper Shade of Green



By Bill McKibben, National Geographic



This is the year when we finally started to understand what we are in for. Exactly 12 months ago, an MIT professor named Kerry Emanuel published a paper in Nature showing that hurricanes had slowly but steadily been gaining in strength and duration for a generation. It didn't attract widespread attention for a few weeks—not until Katrina roared across the Gulf of Mexico and rendered half a million people refugees. The scenario kept repeating: Rita choking highways with fleeing Texans; Wilma setting an Atlantic Ocean record for barometric lows; Zeta spinning on New Year's Day. Meanwhile, other data kept pouring in from around the planet: Arctic sea ice melting past an irrevocable tipping point; thawing permafrost in northeastern Siberia creating so much methane that lakes didn't freeze even in the depths of boreal winter; the NASA calculation that 2005 had been the warmest year on record.



Click To Read

Monday, August 07, 2006

Extinction: Bye Bye, Birdie ...





By Sarah DeWeerdt, World Watch. Posted August 7, 2006.



Lonely, except that in one sense it has lots of company: species that are lost, or nearly so, are increasingly common because human activities are driving them to extinction 1,000 times faster than the normal rate, according to the just-released report, Global Biodiversity Outlook 2. The report echoes the United Nations' Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, published last year, and proclaims that a "sixth mass extinction" is under way, the worst loss of species since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.


Click To Read Article

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A New Way to Ask, 'How Green Is My Conscience?'




By CHRISTINE LARSON, NY Times


"Call them green upgrades: easy ways for consumers to help the environment without changing their behavior. Such upgrades have been proliferating: Skiers, for example, can spend an extra $2 at some resorts to offset the pollution produced in a drive to the mountains; the money goes to environmental organizations. On Web sites like TerraPass.com or CoolDriver.org, drivers can total a car's pollution for a year and direct a corresponding sum to clean-energy projects. "




Click To Read

Friday, June 23, 2006

Air Conditioning: Our Cross to Bear






About 5.5 percent of the gasoline burned annually by America's cars and light trucks -- 7 billion gallons -- goes to run air-conditioners. That's equivalent to the total oil consumption of Indonesia, a petroleum-rich country with a population size comparable to ours. Four states -- California, Arizona, Texas and Florida -- account for 35 percent of that extra fuel consumption Fifty-six percent of refrigerants worldwide are used for air-conditioning buildings and vehicles. North America, with 6 percent of the world's people, accounts for nearly 40 percent of its refrigerant market, as well as 43 percent of all refrigerants currently "banked" inside appliances and 38 percent of the resultant global-warming effects.

Finally, in counting costs, it's important to consider not only fuel and refrigerants but also the materials -- steel, copper, plastics and a lot more -- that have gone into building up the nation's colossal tonnage of air-conditioning capacity.








Click To Read

Panel Supports a Controversial Report on Global Warming





By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times


An influential and controversial paper asserting that recent warming in the Northern Hemisphere was probably unrivaled for 1,000 years was endorsed Thursday, with a few reservations, by a panel convened by the nation's pre-eminent scientific body.



More broadly, the panel examined other recent research comparing the pronounced warming trend over the last several decades with temperature shifts over the last 2,000 years. It expressed high confidence that warming over the last 25 years exceeded any peaks since 1600. And in a news conference here on Thursday, three panelists said the current warming was probably, but not certainly, beyond any peaks since the year 900

Click To Read Article

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pollution From Chinese Coal Casts a Global Shadow



By KEITH BRADSHER and DAVID BARBOZA, NY Times.




Unless China finds a way to clean up its coal plants and the thousands of factories that burn coal, pollution will soar both at home and abroad. The increase in global-warming gases from China's coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.




The sulfur dioxide produced in coal combustion poses an immediate threat to the health of China's citizens, contributing to about 400,000 premature deaths a year. It also causes acid rain that poisons lakes, rivers, forests and crops.



Click To Read

Friday, June 09, 2006

Coming soon: Cars that get 100 miles per gallon

Coming soon: Cars that get 100 miles per gallon



Last modified: April 25, 2006, 4:00 AM PDT
By Michael Kanellos
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

A car that doesn't need gas, or at least not much, is getting slightly more realistic all the time.



A few small companies will start to offer services and products for converting hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius that currently get around 50 miles per gallon into plug-in hybrids that rely more heavily on electrical power and can get about 100 miles per gallon.




"I get about 99 miles to the gallon," said Felix Kramer, founder of The California Cars Initiative (CalCars), who owns the eighth Prius converted into a plug-in hybrid. "When gasoline costs $3 a gallon, driving most gasoline cars costs 8 to 20 cents a mile. With a plug-in hybrid, your local travel and commuting can go down to 2 to 4 cents a mile."



In general, plug-in hybrids have much larger battery packs than standard hybrids--in prototypes, the extra batteries fill up the space where spare tires now reside--and much smaller gas motors. The batteries can be recharged by plugging the car into any wall socket.



Under 34 miles per hour, the electric motor effectively powers the car on its own, said Kramer. Over that--and during bursts of acceleration--the gas motor begins to help incrementally. The gas motor also takes over when the battery conks.



"Sixty-five percent of drivers will not use gas on a daily basis. The only time you ever use gasoline is when you go on vacation or go skiing," said Andrew Frank, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California at Davis who has made plug-in hybrids out of stock Mercury Sables and a Chevy Suburban. The Suburban has been tested on General Motors' off-road track.



"It would do the same thing as a conventional Suburban, including towing a trailer," he added.



It all comes down to cost
But conversion won't be cheap--at least initially. California's EDrive Systems will charge around $10,000 to $12,000 to install the extra lithium batteries needed to turn a standard Prius into a plug-in hybrid when its service begins later this summer.



At that price, and with gas at $3 a gallon, it would take around 160,000 to 200,000 miles of driving to break even. As a result, conversion services today are really being sold more as a luxury option or status symbol.



But some groups are looking to the do-it-yourself crowd for a cheaper solution. Canada's Hymotion, which already converts fleets of hybrids for corporate customers, will charge about $9,500 for a kit aimed at consumers that it will start shipping in October. And Hymotion can convert more than just the Prius.

CalCars is working with independent inventors to bring the price of a DIY kit based around an open blueprint to about $3,000.

"Our goal for the build kit is this summer, but making this happen will be a volunteer project--as are most open-source efforts--so I'm not in a position to promise," Kramer said.



Mass manufacturing, though, could lower the prices dramatically over time. Frank estimates that a plug-in hybrid with a 60-mile range (meaning the car can run on electricity alone for up to 60 miles) might cost only $6,000 to $7,000 more to mass manufacture than a conventional car in a few years. A standard hybrid currently goes for about $3,000 more than gasoline-driven cars.



To get to that point, however, battery technology, which tends to progress slowly, will need to improve. Auto manufacturers will have to improve the transmissions and other components that go into a hybrid.



The high cost is one of the primary reasons that major auto manufacturers have been lukewarm to the concept of plug-in cars, engineers at large auto manufacturers have said. Finding ways to stash the battery without compromising passenger or cargo room is another.



Nonetheless, some automakers have shown interest. DaimlerChrysler will produce 40 plug-in versions of its Sprinter minivan for testing the concept. No commitment has been made to turn it into a product.



Pollution-free
Over several years, the cars also can pave the way toward nearly pollution-free cars, said Frank. Because gasoline consumption is modest, it will likely be possible to build plug-in hybrids that burn ethanol rather than gas.



For electricity, the cars could harvest solar power from solar panels installed in garages or houses. Although electric motors don't pollute, electricity gets generated in coal-burning plants, one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases.

Solar isn't as farfetched as it sounds, Frank said. Studies show that most cars are on the road for only three hours a day and could be charged the remaining hours. Installing solar panels on garage roofs and homes will take a bit of capital, but the costs of making and installing solar technology are expected to go down over time as well.



"We can't switch from where we are today overnight. It will take 20 years or more to take the PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) to get into our society," Frank said. Nonetheless, "we can greatly reduce the amount of liquid fuel we use for transportation," he said.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

One Farm Town's Drive for Energy Independence

by Monica Davey, NY Times


The State of Indiana first brought the idea to Reynolds last year, calling it BioTown, in an experiment Gov. Mitch Daniels acknowledged could be viewed as a bit of "a stunt." But in the ensuing months and as the price of gasoline soared, Reynolds adopted the notion as its own, and residents began speaking passionately of an end to their reliance on foreign oil and of the potential electricity they could envision in the more than 150,000 pigs that wander nearby.

Since November, nearly 100 of the community's residents have begun driving cars that can run on ethanol-based fuel, as has the employee who drives one of the town's three vehicles. The other two town cars have been replaced with diesel vehicles, so they can run on bio-diesel fuel like vegetable oil.





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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Greener Guys




By JAD MOUAWAD, NY Times




Americans are increasingly recognizing that the effects of carbon emissions on global warming are a serious problem, but there are no rules in the United States regulating heat-trapping gases comparable to those that most other developed countries have adopted under the Kyoto Protocol. Some United States businesses, though, are responding for a variety of reasons anyway: to satisfy customers or shareholders who worry about the environment, to improve their public image or to drive down their energy costs. In addition, some states and local authorities have stepped in to try to curb their contributions to global warming.


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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Automakers ramp up Indian factories




By TERENCE CHEA The Associated Press, published in the Rutland Herald



Last year, about 1.2 million cars and light trucks were sold here. That number is expected to increase by about 9 percent annually over the next five years, according to J.D. Power and Associates, a global market research firm based in Westlake Village, Calif.



The Indian market is still tiny compared to that of the U.S., where about 17 million vehicles were sold last year. But with a population of 1.1 billion and an economy that has averaged 8 percent growth over the past three years, it has a lot of room to grow.


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Sunday, April 30, 2006

G.E., Betting on the Future, Finances a Solar Farm in Portugal






By CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH, NY Times



The sheep that have long grazed on 150 acres of farmland in Serpa, Portugal, will soon have to share their space with the world's largest solar energy plant.

Next month the PowerLight Corporation, using $75 million of the General Electric Company's money, will begin installing the first of what will be 52,000 solar panels, capable of generating 11 megawatts of electricity — enough to light and heat 8,000 homes.


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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blame Everyone but the Culprit





With gas prices at an all-time high, Democrats, Republicans and President Bush are all quick to point blame. But they're ignoring the biggest offender: all of us.



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Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Great Turning



David Korten argues that corporate consolidation of power is merely one manifestation of what he calls "Empire": the organization of society through hierarchy and violence that has largely held sway for the past 5,000 years. Empire has always resulted in misery for the many and fortune for the few, but now it threatens the very future of humanity. Korten points to global terrorism, climate change, and rising poverty as just a few of the signs that Empire has become unsustainable and destructive.

The Great Turning offers a new framework with which to understand our current predicament, grasp the potential of this historic moment, and take action for the future of our planet, our communities, and ourselves.



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America's Eating Disorder


By Blair Golson, Truthdig. Posted on Alternet




"It was a gathering sense that Americans -- myself included -- had gotten deeply confused and worried about what they were eating and unsure where to turn. To read the newspaper over the last couple of years is to read one story after another that makes you wonder if the way you've been eating all these years is such a good idea -- for yourself or the planet or the animals.

Just reading the coverage of mad cow disease was an incredible educational experience. For example, we read that you've got to stop feeding cows to cows. It's like, "What? We've been feeding cows to cows?" And we've got to tighten up those rules about feeding chicken litter to cows. "We've been feeding chicken crap to cows?"

If you read those stories, it made me realize that the system by which we're producing our food is not one I feel very good about participating in. So I began looking into the food chain and alternatives to the main industrial food chain -- doing what I think of as a series of food detective stories, and much of what I learned in these detective stories was astonishing to me, and forced me to re-approach the way I shop for food and go about eating it."

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Climate Change Shattering Marine Food Chain




by Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service



BROOKLIN, Canada - The loss of reefs will have a catastrophic impact on all marine life.

One-third of the coral at official monitoring sites in the area of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have recently perished in what scientists call an "unprecedented" die-off.

Extremely high sea temperatures in the summer and fall of 2005 that spawned a record hurricane season have also caused extensive coral bleaching extending from the Florida Keys to Tobago and Barbados in the south and Panama and Costa Rica, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch.

High sea temperatures are also killing parts of Australia's 2,000-kilometre-long Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest living reef formation. As summer ends in the Southern Hemisphere, researchers are now investigating the extent of the coral bleaching. Up to 98 percent of the coral in one area has been affected, reported the Australian Institute of Marine Science last week.

"The Great Barrier Reef has been living on this planet for 18 million years and we've undermined its existence within our lifetimes," says Brian Huse, executive director of the Coral Reef Alliance, a U.S.-based NGO dedicated to protecting the health of coral reefs.

"Twenty percent of Earth's reefs have been lost and 50 percent face moderate to severe threats," Huse told IPS.

The economic value of reefs globally is estimated at 375 billion dollars, he says.


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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Alpaca farm runs on cow power





Vermont Guardian



New England’s largest alpaca farm is teaming up with Vermont’s largest voluntary renewable energy program, CVPS Cow Power.

“We’re putting CVPS Cow Power to work at Cas-Cad-Nac Farm,” said co-owner Ian Lutz, who with his wife Jennifer runs the 250-head alpaca farm in central Vermont. “We’re strong supporters of sustainable, Vermont-scale agriculture, so it’s a natural decision for us to become Cow Power customers.”

CVPS Cow Power is the nation’s only direct farm-to-consumer renewable energy program, creating a market for farmers who want to process cow manure and other farm waste to generate electricity, according to CVPS officials. More than 2,500 CVPS customers have enrolled in the program, which provides farms with new manure management opportunities, environmental benefits, and income.

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I-91 towns work to cut car emissions





By DANIEL BARLOW Southern Vermont Bureau, Rutland Herald



BRATTLEBORO — More than 26,000 cars travel Interstate 91 through this town every day and each one leaves behind carbon monoxide from its exhaust.

So Brattleboro is joining with other I-91 border towns, such as Hartford, Conn., and Northampton, Mass., to develop new transportation models that can be implemented on the local and regional scale to reduce emissions that cause greenhouse gases.

The project is organized by ICLEI, an international association of governments that has worked on sustainability issues since 1990.

Officials with that organization say they hope the model developed by Brattleboro and the four participating towns can be repeated elsewhere.

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Friday, March 31, 2006

Antarctic Air is Warming Faster Than Rest of World






by Mark Henderson, Times/UK, Posted on Commondreams.org


AIR temperatures above the entire frozen continent of Antarctica have risen three times faster than the rest of the world during the past 30 years.


While it is well established that temperatures are increasing rapidly in the Antarctic Peninsula, the land tongue that protrudes towards South America, the trend has been harder to confirm over the continent as a whole.

Now analysis of weather balloon data by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has shown that not only are the lower reaches of the Antarctic atmosphere warming, but that they are doing so at the fastest rate observed anywhere on Earth.

Temperatures in the troposphere — the lowest 8km (5 miles) of the atmosphere — have increased by between 0.5C and 0.7 C (0.9F and 1.3F) per decade over the past 30 years.

This signature of climate change is three times stronger than the average observed around the world, suggesting that global warming is having an uneven impact and that it could be greater for Antarctica.



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Problem: Foreign Oil, Answer: Blowing in the Wind?

Turbines spin at a wind farm in Daban, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Region, March 1, 2005. Wind turbines may one day replace hydropower as China's second-largest source of electricity, if the country continues with a drive to boost renewable generation. Wind energy is emerging as a centerpiece of the new energy economy because it is abundant, inexpensive, inexhaustible, widely distributed, clean, and climate-benign,'' meaning that it does not add to global warming, said Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. REUTERS/China Newsphoto
by Abid Aslam, Oneworld.net, posted on Commondreams.org




WASHINGTON - Alongside the war in Iraq, Americans worry most about U.S. dependence on foreign oil, a leading pollster said Thursday.
While most appeared fatalistic over problems like job outsourcing, around half said the government can do something about energy dependence, according to a survey run by Daniel Yankelovich, funded by the Ford Foundation, and published by the Council on Foreign Relations in its journal Foreign Affairs.

Environmentalists appeared to validate that sentiment, separately highlighting rapid growth in homespun energy alternatives and urging policymakers to boost support for the sector.

Almost 90 percent of the 1,000 Americans canvassed in January for the Confidence in U.S. Foreign Policy Index said dependence on foreign energy jeopardized national security.

Forty-six percent gave policymakers a failing grade for their efforts to wean the nation off foreign oil and natural gas.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Food, sustainability, and the environmentalists


Posted by Tom Philpott, Grist Magazine



What he was asking me, in essence, was, "can sustainable farming feed the world?" To which the only wise response is, "can unsustainable farming feed the world -- for long?"

To an extent, the problem is one of semantics, centering on the definition of "sustainable." To many green types, places like Whole Foods and Wild Oats teem with "sustainably produced" stuff -- everything from T-shirts to apples, chicken and eggs, even versions of Twizzlers and TV dinners. But the great bulk of it falls under the rubric of industrial-organic -- like the wares on offer at Wal-Mart, only a little less so, these goods depend on a culture of cheap and plentiful crude oil and labor.



The cheap-oil problem has certainly gained traction among greens. Blogs devoted to "peak oil" abound; this very blog seems like one at times. Most of these discussions, though, devolve into sniping about biofuels and hybrids. It's important to wonder how we'd get around in an era of super-high oil prices.



Click To Read

My Saudi Arabian breakfast



by Chad Heeter, from Tomdispatch.com, posted on Energy Bulletin.



For decades, scientists have calculated how much fossil fuel goes into our food by measuring the amount of energy consumed in growing, packing, shipping, consuming, and finally disposing of it. The "caloric input" of fossil fuel is then compared to the energy available in the edible product, the "caloric output."

What they've discovered is astonishing. According to researchers at the University of Michigan's Center for Sustainable Agriculture, an average of over seven calories of fossil fuel is burned up for every calorie of energy we get from our food. This means that in eating my 400 calorie breakfast, I will, in effect, have "consumed" 2,800 calories of fossil-fuel energy. (Some researchers claim the ratio to be as high as ten to one.)

But this is only an average. My cup of coffee gives me only a few calories of energy, but to process just one pound of coffee requires over 8,000 calories of fossil-fuel energy -- the equivalent energy found in nearly a quart of crude oil, 30 cubic feet of natural gas, or around two and a half pounds of coal.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

On the Ethanol Bandwagon, Big Names and Big Risks


Vinod Khosla, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, now invests in ethanol. The flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe next to him can run on gasoline and ethanol.



By NORM ALSTER, New York Times



Ethanol derived from corn now accounts for 3 percent of the American automotive fuel market. Most cars in the United States can already handle fuel that is up to 10 percent ethanol, and as many as five million are so-called flex-fuel vehicles that can use a fuel called E85, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

The current excitement over ethanol derives from research that has cut the cost of converting nonfood plant matter like grasses and wood chips into alcohol. Mr. Khosla says he believes that such ethanol, called cellulosic ethanol, will eventually be cheaper to produce than both gasoline and corn-derived ethanol



Click to Read

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Study Says U.S. Companies Lag on Global Warming




By CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH



European and Asian companies are paying more attention to global warming than their American counterparts. And chemical companies are more focused on the issue than oil companies.

Those are two conclusions from "Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection," a report that Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmentalists, expects will influence investment decisions.

The report, released yesterday, scored 100 global corporations — 74 of them based in the United States — on their strategies for curbing greenhouse gases. It covered 10 industries — oil and gas, chemicals, metals, electric power, automotive, forest products, coal, food, industrial equipment and airlines — whose activities were most likely to emit greenhouse gases. It evaluated companies on their board oversight, management performance, public disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions, accounting and strategic planning.



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ick To Read

Climate Data Hint at Irreversible Rise in Seas





By ANDREW C. REVKIN, New York Times



Within the next 100 years, the growing human influence on Earth's climate could lead to a long and irreversible rise in sea levels by eroding the planet's vast polar ice sheets, according to new observations and analysis by several teams of scientists.

One team, using computer models of climate and ice, found that by about 2100, average temperatures could be four degrees higher than today and that over the coming centuries, the oceans could rise 13 to 20 feet — conditions last seen 129,000 years ago, between the last two ice ages.

The findings, being reported today in the journal Science, are consistent with other recent studies of melting and erosion at the poles. Many experts say there are still uncertainties about timing, extent and causes.



Click To Read

A Carbon Cloud Hangs Over Green Fuel




By Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor.Posted on Alternet.



An Iowa corn refinery, open since December, uses 300 tons of coal a day to make ethanol. So just how green can it be?



Late last year in Goldfield, Iowa, a refinery began pumping out a stream of ethanol, which supporters call the clean, renewable fuel of the future.

There's just one twist: The plant is burning 300 tons of coal a day to turn corn into ethanol -- the first US plant of its kind to use coal instead of cleaner natural gas.

An hour south of Goldfield, another coal-fired ethanol plant is under construction in Nevada, Iowa. At least three other such refineries are being built in Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

The trend, which is expected to continue, has left even some ethanol boosters scratching their heads. Should coal become a standard for 30 to 40 ethanol plants under construction -- and 150 others on the drawing boards -- it would undermine the environmental reasoning for switching to ethanol in the first place, environmentalists say.



Click to Read

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Infected Planet





Stan Cox, AlterNet.



Modern human plagues like bird flu aren't the result of mysterious forces. Whether we mean to or not, we bring them on ourselves.



When Michael Crichton's first novel, "The Andromeda Strain," was published in 1969, it was scary but also strangely reassuring. If some new disease were to threaten humanity with a deadly pandemic, it seemed, the microbe responsible would come from another planet. The march of medical progress appeared to have terrestrial germs on the run.

Twenty-five years later, when Laurie Garrett published her nonfiction bestseller, "The Coming Plague," people were waking up to the fact that our own abused planet is perfectly capable of spawning a steady stream of new diseases without any help from alien worlds.

Today, old familiar scourges like tuberculosis, malaria, measles, and diarrhea -- and a newer one, AIDS -- are the world's biggest killers, but they've been joined by a host of newcomers. Indeed, one could get the impression that each year brings a new disease. That's because it does.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

New U.S. Crop Seeks to Replace Imported Oils

By Harriet McLeod, Reuters - Posted on ENN



CHARLESTON, S.C. — A small North Carolina-based specialty crops company is trying to turn a humble wildflower into a major new oilseed crop that could produce an alternative to coconut and palm oils.

After 20 years in development, cuphea (koo-FEE-ah) will start its second planting this spring in the Midwestern United States.

"It's grown (as a crop) nowhere else in the world," said Andrew Hebard, chief executive of Technology Crops International in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which is leading the commercialization of cuphea.

The plant's seeds contain novel fatty acids along with lauric acid, which is used as a wetting and foaming agent in soaps, detergents, shampoos, toothpaste and even airplane fuel.

The world market for lauric oil was about 4.5 million tons in 2003, the most recent year for which figures are widely available, according to market reports. The United States consumed about 1.5 million tons of that, mostly from Southeast Asia.

Cuphea could reduce U.S. reliance on imported tropical oils like palm and coconut. It could also cut dependency on some petrochemicals and give American farmers a new crop to rotate with corn.

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The False Promise of 'Clean Coal'


By Kari Lydersen, The NewStandard, Posted on Alternet



Even a quick glance at coal-producing states like West Virginia shows that the idea of an eco-friendly use for the fossil fuel is far more misnomer than reality.



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In Epoch of Man, Earth Takes a Beating






By MARIANA GOSNELL, New York Times


"It may be that we're not going to solve global warming," Marty Hoffert, a physics professor at New York University, told Ms. Kolbert, "the earth is going to become an ecological disaster, and, you know, somebody will visit in a few hundred million years and find there were some intelligent beings who lived here for a while, but they just couldn't handle the transition from being hunter-gatherers to high technology."


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Monday, March 13, 2006

The Price of Cheap Chicken


by Wendy Orent, Los Angeles Times



Chicken has never been cheaper. A whole one can be bought for little more than the price of a Starbucks cup of coffee. But the industrial farming methods that make ever-cheaper chicken possible may also have created the lethal strain of bird flu virus, H5N1, that threatens to set off a global pandemic.

According to Earl Brown, a University of Ottawa flu virologist, lethal bird flu is entirely man-made, first evolving in commercially produced poultry in Italy in 1878. The highly pathogenic H5N1 is descended from a strain that first appeared in Scotland in 1959.

People have been living with backyard flocks of poultry since the dawn of civilization. But it wasn't until poultry production became modernized, and birds were raised in much larger numbers and concentrations, that a virulent bird flu evolved. When birds are packed close together, any brakes on virulence are off. Birds struck with a fatal illness can still easily pass the disease to others, through direct contact or through fecal matter, and lethal strains can evolve. Somehow, the virus that arose in Scotland found its way to China, where, as H5N1, it has been raging for more than a decade.



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Death of the World's Rivers



by Geoffrey Lean, by the lndependent/UK



The world's great rivers are drying up at an alarming rate, with devastating consequences for humanity, animals and the future of the planet.

The Independent on Sunday can today reveal that more than half the world's 500 mightiest rivers have been seriously depleted. Some have been reduced to a trickle in what the United Nations will this week warn is a "disaster in the making".

From the Nile to China's Yellow River, some of the world's great water systems are now under such pressure that they often fail to deposit their water in the ocean or are interrupted in the course to the sea, with grave consequences for the planet.

Adding to the disaster, all of the 20 longer rivers are being disrupted by big dams. One-fifth of all freshwater fish species either face extinction or are already extinction.



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Sunday, March 12, 2006

We Are What We Buy



By Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor.



Much was familiar to me in Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine -- and I wasn't always comfortable with that.

Levine begins the book by telling us about a mid-December day in 2003 when she found herself jammed into a subway car, fighting to protect her shopping bags from other people's muddy boots. Her joy was depleting as rapidly as her bank account.

"I have maxed out the Visa, moved on to the Citibank debit card, and am tapping the ATM like an Iraqi guerrilla pulling crude from the pipeline," she wrote. That was when the idea occurred to her: Why don't we just stop buying? And thus was born the premise for this engaging and thought-provoking chronicle of 2004, the year that Levine and her domestic partner, Paul, simply said no to buying.

click to Read Article

Thursday, March 09, 2006

After the fog (of War): The sharp focus of Vermont independent filmmaker Jay Craven





By Rob Williams | Special to the Vermont Guardian



March brings with it the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the line of duty, 2,500 U.S. soldiers, including 22 Vermont servicepersons, have been killed, while countless Iraqis, many of them women and children, have lost their lives.

It seems fitting to stop and reflect on the meaning of U.S. wars with those who have served in them, and a new film, After The Fog, co-produced by Jay Craven, does just this.

Stitching together the personal testimony of 11 U.S. war veterans, After The Fog is an intimate and human look at the consequences of war, told by those who fought. In an interview, Craven offered his thoughts on the film, and on war generally.

Click to Read Article